So Naro, newly appointed Minister Delegate attached to the Prime Minister, who has just returned from the US, suggested that the failure of the Candlelight Party (CP) to register successfully for participation in the 7th national election on July 23 may have been deliberate, so they could feign outrage and attempt to shift the blame for their failings onto the National Election Committee (NEC) and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Addressing a June 24 press conference at the Peace Palace, he said that by blaming the NEC for refusing to register them, the CP was playing a dangerous game. The actual reason, he explained, was that the party leadership is abroad in France, and never intended to provide original party registration documents.

Naro added that the CP’s move was just a political ploy by the opposition abroad. They encouraged the party to mobilise its forces and pushed them to try to compete with the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), but chose not to provide the necessary documentation to register and contest the election.

“As they did not have the required documents, the NEC was unable to register the party or its candidates. This was a deliberate trick. They wanted CP members to believe they intended to participate and then become angry when they could not. This is the political game that the CP is playing,” he explained.

According to Naro, if CP activists want to demonstrate and demand that the party be allowed to contest the election, they should go and do so in France. He suggested that the registration documents may not have been lost, but withheld, in an attempt to make people believe that the prime minister controlled the electoral body.

“This is part of the CP’s attempt to discredit the CPP in the eyes of the international party and cast doubts on the results of the upcoming election,” he said.

Rong Chhun, vice-president of the CP, said on June 25 that he would rather not respond to Naro’s comments, and suggested that Naro lacked a clear understanding of the issue.

He added that if the implied ‘trick’ was true, then Naro should inform the NEC and suggest that they register the CP for the election.

“The allegations are untrue, and I cannot accept them,” he said.

Chhun confirmed that the CP still held the position of wanting to take part in the election.

On May 26, Prime Minister Hun Sen also expressed his disbelief that the CP had lost the original registration letter, saying that it could have been with any of the leaders. He believed that they never intended to participate in the election as they know they will lose, but aimed to convince foreigners to doubt the results of the ballot.

The Constitutional Council rejected complaints by the CP and the Khmer United Great Nation Party (KUGNP), regarding the NEC’s refusal to register them, on May 25.